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Clinton Stresses Mission’s Importance to Troops in Afghanistan

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Tabios
Special to American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Nov. 20, 2009 – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged international forces here yesterday to help President Hamid Karzai realize the vision for Afghanistan he expressed earlier in the day when he took office for his second five-year term.

Clinton, who was in Afghanistan to attend Karzai’s inauguration, spoke to troops at the newly established International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.

The secretary praised Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriquez for their leadership of the international military effort in Afghanistan, and she thanked U.S. and international servicemembers for their work to move Afghanistan ahead.

“I know the work that is done every single day is done by all of you, in every aspect of this mission,” she said. “I know we’ve got some of our allied partners here, and I want to thank all of them for representing their countries and being a part of this extraordinary international effort.”

The secretary emphasized to the troops the importance of their mission.

“This is a mission that is important to the United States and to those who have joined us in it,” she said. “It is a mission that partners with the people and government of Afghanistan against a common enemy that poses a threat not only to people here but people back at home or wherever you come from. We have to do everything we can to create the capacity of the Afghan government and the Afghan people to protect themselves.”

Clinton shared Karzai’s vision for his country as expressed in his inaugural address, and urged the troops to do their part to make that vision a reality.

“To take the lead and take the fight the enemy is what he said he wanted to see happen,” she said, “and the only way that can happen is by the work that you do -- the training, mentoring and support that you give to your Afghan counterparts. We are going to be giving you the kind of encouragement that you need to be able to deliver the goal that President Karzai set for Afghanistan.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Dreyfus of Las Vegas said the secretary’s message came through loud and clear.

“The most important part of her speech was explaining Afghanistan taking control of their government and moving forward,” he said. “The time frame that they set out, I thought, was very significant, beyond her recognition of our service. It was a brief and concise message, and I was very impressed.”

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lucia Munoz of Calexico, Calif., said Clinton’s visit brought comfort to servicemembers here that what they do on a daily basis is worthwhile.

“It’s amazing to see her over here, so far away,” Monoz said. “They have not forgotten about us, and it is very important for me to know that they care that we are here.”

Clinton also took time to recognize the sacrifices servicemembers’ families are making.

“I know that serving here is challenging, [and] there are a lot of sacrifices, particularly not being able to see your family and friends for long periods of time,” the secretary said. “I really appreciate your willingness to serve, but I also know for everybody who serves, there is a family that serves as well. I hope that when you e-mail, call or write, you let them know that I am grateful for their service.” It was a message that resonated with the servicemembers here, regardless of their nationality.

“I like what she said about what we are all doing here in Afghanistan, but the most important thing was the family link,” said Capt. Yann Frenkel of France’s air force. “When you are far away -- six, seven or eight months -- you don’t know, but it is important to keep contact by phone or Internet. She spoke not only as a politician, but as a mother.”

Clinton ended her visit by giving all troops a holiday message.

“I want to especially wish you a happy Thanksgiving,” she said. “There are a lot of things I’m grateful for and that the American people are grateful for, and at the top of my list is all of you. “Thank you again, and God bless you and God bless the USA.”

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Tabios serves with the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command public affairs office.)

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